she.shines.bright.

Stardust (1)

Stardust flows through your veins. Advertisements

Imagine

Imagine.
On this spinning rock in a vast Universe.
Of the thousands of people that I have locked eyes with… I still remember the first time I saw yours.

Imagine

Write every day

Today I listened to the Beautiful Writer’s Podcast and Seth Godin was the guest. He is a brilliant man and two things he said today really resonated with me: write like you talk, and write every day.

My inner editor is ferocious. I have a folder FULL of half-finished blog posts saved on my computer. I edit my sentences as I am writing them and it’s so exhausting that I rarely complete a post. That’s precisely why you can read the entire contents of the 2 years old blog in about 30 minutes.

I’d like to try Seth’s advice on for size. So far this year I have adopted a daily journaling practice and I am literally writing for at least 5 minutes per day. So I will endeavor to add to that a post in this medium every day. No other rules 🙂

 

Sharing stories

Shared on Facebook (Nov 19th)

Sometimes, humanizing a big issue can shift your perspective. While the majority of my Facebook family are promoting love instead of fear, this is for those of you still wrestling with the idea of closing our country’s doors to refugees.

My grandmother was born in Syria.
My grandfather was born Israel.
My father, aunts, and uncle were born and raised in Lebanon. And during the Lebanese civil war, immigrated to America. Though they were sponsored by family and did not come seeking asylum, they were indeed refugees fleeing a war torn country. The combined ethnic backgrounds and countries of origin of this family (and the political climate and war at the time) would have been reason enough to fear them and turn them away.

Today, my grandfather owns a plumbing business. My grandmother, before she died, was a mother and a healer. And my dad is a Marine. He served 26 years. And I am here. You know me. And I wouldn’t be here if my family had been turned away.

It’s okay to be scared of what might happen in the future. Consider that there are many, many ways that a situation can turn out. Refugees might come to this country and a few might commit acts of terror. This is true. And many others will raise families that become like my family. If you’re struggling with this issue, I’m offering our story as one that can help put a human face to this very very big issue.

TEDxNaperville 2015

My name is Marina. My role on this year’s leadership team is project manager, so I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to make this event happen. 

It takes eight very passionate, mildly neurotic organizers.
It takes 364 days and 34 volunteers.
It takes a lot of emails. There are 1,131 emails labeled TEDxNaperville in my gmail inbox right now.
And beer. It takes a considerable amount of beer to make this event happen.

This is what I said on stage at TEDxNaperville before my mind went completely blank. Beside me, James, a fellow TEDx organizer. In front of me, 500 attendees, a sold out crowd larger than any this event had seen in its previous 5 years. There with the microphone in my hand, I found myself completely and utterly speechless for perhaps the first and only time in my entire life. My mom will tell you that I spoke my first full sentence (My balloon go up.) at 9 months old and never shut my mouth again. Not knowing what to say does not come naturally to me. Words often tumble right out of my face without any kind of filter. But in the eternity that passed while I stood there on stage, I could not remember what came next in my speech.

“I can’t remember what’s next” I said to James.
There was nothing he could do, of course. In that moment, he could only be there with me in that aching silence that stretched around us.

Several options flashed through my mind in quick succession: I could give up and walk off stage, the host could come out and rescue me, I could cry in front of everyone (which seemed like the most plausible option), or I could finish what I had started and say the parts of my talk that I did remember. I knew in an instant that could not leave the stage without at least attempting to tell the audience about the wonderful and hardworking team that was the backbone of this event.

So despite what I had planned, written and practiced, I went with what I knew: I just opened my mouth and let the words tumble out. I cannot remember what I said. At all. Every detail of the seconds leading up to that moment is crystal clear; I can remember exactly how I felt with the bright light in my eyes and the microphone in my hand. The time I spent speaking is a blur.

And then as soon as I had started, I was done. The mic dropped to my side and (thankfully) muted. And James was waiting with a hug that was the only thing standing between me and a complete emotional unraveling.

I had intended to tell the audience about our TEDx leadership team. To tell them how hard we work, how we are just normal people that care so much about this event and devote so much time and energy to it and to each other. But instead, I think James and I showed them.

I teetered on the edge of a shame spiral for the next few hours. I was just one quiet moment away from total oblivion. But my beautiful, passionate, neurotic little TEDx family wrapped me up and kept me safe from the emotional harm I was prepared to inflict on myself. Instead of being allowed to sit and replay the moment and allow my inner critic to comment, I was swept away by hugs and reassuring words:

 You rock girl!!! I am so proud of you!!!

 “It takes guts to tremble, it takes tremble to love”

Brene told me to tell you that she’s proud of you for your vulnerable moment and for being your authentic self.

Move past it. Show’s on. You’re good.

The swell of love and support buoyed me through the rest of the day.

Don’t get me wrong, I still cried. I found a dark corner backstage and cried furiously for a few minutes immediately after it happened. At the end of the day, a friend held space with me while I cried about it a bit more. But by that point, I just needed to allow the feeling to run through me. I didn’t want or need to feel ashamed or critical about what had happened. I just needed to express my feelings through my eyeballs.

One thing that we endeavor to do at TEDxNaperville is create an experience that attendees will carry with them throughout the year. This year, I had an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.  I couldn’t have imagined a better group of people to share it with.

 

It’s a treasure and a gift

I recently had an experience that I haven’t had in quite some time: tremendous and overwhelming anxiety while in a public place. I had been attending a meeting. I left in tears, and without saying goodbye to friends that were also there: highly unusual behavior for me on both counts. In fact, only one clear thought was running through my head: I need to get the hell out of here. That, and an acute awareness that it was hard to breathe.

I’ve debated endlessly about whether this is something I want to share or not, and then I found courage and inspiration from looking at the people around me: people who openly claim their ambiguous (sexual) orientation, recovery from alcoholism, and former abusive relationships. It’s terrifying to share personal stories like these, but sharing in each other’s struggles and triumphs is what makes us human. I feel so much more connected to the authentic people in my life, the ones who speak openly about their past and current challenges, and I look at myself and think “I want people to feel like that about me”. So here it goes.

Anxiety. It can be hard for others to relate to this sensation, as it’s different for everyone. Some folks think it’s just like feeling worried or nervous. I am nervous when I drive somewhere in a blizzard, or when I’m about to go on a first date. I am worried when I get phone call from my mom with a text message follow up saying “call me ASAP”. If you can talk yourself out of a feeling, I am fairly confident that it’s not anxiety, at least not the kind I’m talking about. In fact, if you’ve ever thought to yourself “that person should just try harder/stop worrying/do x, y, or z”  I am almost positive that you are incredibly fortunate to have never experienced true anxiety.

Merriam Webster says that synonyms for anxiety include: worry, concern, agitation, and apprehension. Anxiety, for me, doesn’t feel like any of those things.

It doesn’t come from the logical place in my brain, the place where you can deliver facts and information to alleviate unease or tension. Anxiety comes from a different place, it has a voice, a sensation, a texture and being all its own. It cares nothing for logic, disregards reality, and hijacks my nervous system. Thoughts that just moments before were a realistic stream of facts and logical interpretations spiral wildly out of control. Reality literally shifts as my ability to perceive people and events is compromised, and the filter through which all information flows is covered by a screen called anxiety. When it’s particularly heavy, I will feel confused an scared. Physically, scared. Heart racing, hearing diminishing, vision blurring, terrified. And my mind just… goes into survival mode. Nothing matters except getting to a quiet place and trying to breathe.

That’s what full blown anxiety feels like for me. The thing is, that even when I don’t head into the depths of it, anxiety can still be activated. At a low or mid-level, I don’t need to leave a situation, but everything about my ability to perceive reality and react to it is changed. I can feel confused, afraid, illogical, and angry.

This used to happen more frequently than I’d like to admit, or can rightly remember. Truthfully, large blocks of my childhood and adolescence are gone from my memory. Though this might be attributed to the numerous times I’ve undergone deep sedation for oral surgery, I have always attributed my poor memory to anxiety. My brain was often just too preoccupied to actually collect and store information. I won’t detail the number of poor ways that I coped, but there were many.

I am fortunate now to have a host of tools available to help me cope when anxiety comes knocking. In 2009 I took my first yoga class. In 2010 I started seeing a therapist every week (shout out to student mental health services). Over the next few years I overhauled my sleeping scheduled and eating habits. This is a gross oversimplification of the time, trials and errors, and immense support it took for me to become a healthier person. Suffice it say, over the roughly 4 years that I’ve been consciously caring for my mental and physical health, my anxiety issues have abated considerably. There are yoga poses, breathing exercises, mantras, and a fun thing called tapping that I now use to help keep myself in check when things get hairy. In fact, I have come to view bouts of anxiety as a warning sign that I’m not keeping up with my self-care. (Note here: this is my personal experience and certainly does not apply to everyone. I am fortunate to be able to manage my mental health with lifestyle changes and that absolutely does not apply to all situations.)

When I had this experience a couple of weeks ago I was not only shocked, but disappointed, confused, and utterly pissed at myself. I have been feeling a lot of shame around the whole event, which I think is one of the reasons I am compelled to talk about it. The more I think back over the weeks leading up to that day, the more I can see how I was slowly allowing the time I typically dedicate to eating, sleeping, and yoga to be chipped away. As I reexamine my priorities, I see areas where I can improve and where I can take better care of myself. Truly, this wasn’t a failure, but my body’s way of communicating with me to slow down.

I don’t have a neat way to wrap this up and put a bow on it. It kind of sucks. It’s something that’s been a part of my life for a long time and yet something that I always feel the need to hide. Ultimately, I’ve come to think that hiding such things does more harm than good. I want the people in my life to know that sometimes I am a hot mess. Sometimes, I cannot accurately perceive reality and I have to leave public places because I can’t breathe or think or see straight. But those experiences don’t limit or cripple or define me. I am a happy, healthy, optimistic, bubbly, and glittery person and this experience has only strengthened my commitment to taking care of myself. I’ve slowly allowed other perceived responsibilities to take precedence over my time, and this was a wake up call: what’s more important than my own wellbeing and sanity?

I am all I’ve got, day in and day out. This one life, this one incredible body, this one complex mind. It’s a treasure and a gift and ought to be treated as such.

from the archives

In an effort to jump start my writing, I’ve decided to revisit the archives. In the past, I wrote almost obsessively. Journals, poems, stories, anything that came to mind was scribbled in notebooks or documented online. Presently, I spend most of my time thinking and talking about things I’d like to write about. I spend far less time actually writing.

As I take a look back through my own words, it’s interesting to find pieces that I can no longer relate to. This is one of them. Written during my sophomore year of high school, this was picked up by the student literary journal and probably qualifies as my first published work. I called it Egg, because I was a brilliant and misunderstood young writer.

Reading it now feels awkward and I have to resist the urge to edit (I did remove a couple of lines that really don’t make sense, but I didn’t add anything). This was, at one time, a perfect representation of how I felt. As uncomfortable as it is to revisit that, it’s sort of the point of this whole exercise. I believe the growth comes from discomfort, so I’ll take this as an indication that I’m doing something right.

 

Each day is an egg.
Unscathed, unblemished,
and pure white.
Today that egg has been dropped
on the kitchen floor –
and left to seep and ooze
into the cracks of the tile.
Careless Child.

Today the stars fell from my sky,
today the apocalypse occurred.
My world plunged into a void,
and left me hanging upside down
with blood rushing to my head.

Today it rained, it stormed,
the wind howled
and whipped tree branches against
my darkened bedroom window.
The weather man claims
it’s a sunny 65 outside.
But what does he know.

“Being Crazy Isn’t Enough”

Recently, a friend posted this article on my Facebook wall: Men Really Need to Stop Calling Women Crazy. If you read that first, everything I’m about to say will make a lot more sense. Maybe.

YES! I thought to myself as I read Harris O’Malley’s sage words. YES YES YES! (I should be in an Herbal Essences commercial). I shared it on Facebook immediately, confident that it would resonate with everyone that read it. Within a few minutes I had garnered several likes from some of the most intelligent, independent women I know. Success!

In my opinion, the most valuable piece of information in this article is this:

by saying “she’s crazy”, men really mean “she was upset and I didn’t want her to be”.

I love this because it’s establishing understanding, communication, and building emotional intelligence. Imagine if men started saying “you’re upset and I don’t want you to be” instead of “you’re being crazy”. This is probably one reason so many women read this article and felt connected, understood, and empowered by this author’s observations. Women are socialized to experience emotions deeply, and to talk about them frequently and in great detail. To then enter into relationships where these emotions are considered “crazy” by our male partners is confusing and exhausting. It breeds insecurity and resentment, among other things.

So it’s just that simple. Men, stop calling women crazy! Because ultimately, this is what you’re perpetuating:

“Crazy” is such a convenient word for men, perpetuating our sense of superiority. Men are logical; women are emotional. Emotion is the antithesis of logic. When women are too emotional, we say they are being irrational. Crazy. Wrong.

If you don’t want to be that awful, insensitive guy, use a phrase like “you’re upset, and I don’t want you to be” instead.

Then what?

Here is where my musings take a potentially unexpected turn. I actually think this article is lacking in a HUGE, important, way: there doesn’t seem to be an appreciation for the men in this equation. What about their emotions? What about understanding where men are coming from? Can we really just sit back and say that men need to change their perceptions, words, and actions without first attempting to appreciate the challenges that they face in these situations? I don’t think you can point the finger at men and say that they need to stop saying this word or that phrase and leave it at that.

Granted, Mr. O’Malley is a good deal less verbose than I am, so I am sure he intended to include such a discussion in his article but had to omit it for space. I offer my humble extension to his article here.

While many women in my life responded well to this article, the few men who reacted seemed defensive to me. After posting this article, two of my closest male friends texted me (independently of each other): “Girls are crazy” and “But you do know women are actually crazy right?”.

I’ll be honest, at first I brushed these reactions off. My friends are smart guys, and surely they were just trying to get under my skin, as they so often do.

But then, a third (exceptionally intelligent, articulate, and handsome) man in my life said the following things in an email response after I’d shared the article:

• I agree that socio-linguistically, “crazy” shouldn’t be used to describe anybody, but I think the  author uses this critique of “crazy” to legitimize other, less reasonable claims.
• For example, the author portrays men as emotionally stunted and then calls the use of crazy to describe women as a defense mechanism spawned from our own emotional immaturity.
• Actual quote from the article: “men are socialized to be disconnected from our emotions…As a result, we barely have a handle on our own emotions — meaning that we’re especially ill-equipped at dealing with someone else’s” and thus have no place entering discussions at an emotional level? what is the alternative for men then?

It’s the last point that really struck a chord with me. As O’Malley has so astutely observed, men can barely handle their own emotions. So how are men supposed to engage in a conversation like this? Well, obviously by retreating into the same over simplification that we just condemned. So, we simultaneously expect men to internalize their emotions and also to have advanced emotional vocabularies to recognize and address emotional encounters with others. Um… is anyone else lost here? Our society takes little boys from a young age and provides no safe space for them to express their emotions, verbally, physically or otherwise, and then when they become men we condemn them for resorting to simplistic words like “crazy”. It’s an unrealistic expectation.

I hope we can all acknowledge that calling women (or anyone, for that matter) crazy isn’t the answer, but since we also acknowledge that men are not socialized to talk about their feelings (much less anyone else’s), what do you expect? The typical response is to assume every man is an emotionally stunted cavemen – that’s just as harmful as calling a woman “crazy”.

Is there another way?

Men, imagine that the woman is your life is have a nuclear emotional meltdown and you’re now being conscious and mature man and saying “you’re upset and I don’t want you to be”. Now what? Well, if you’re the average woman you probably go with something like this little gem.

And if you’re a man, you’ve been socialized your entire life not to talk about feelings so you probably have no idea what to do next.

There is a better way. In fact, there are many, many better ways. One that I personally like involves taking time away from the encounter to examine your own emotional triggers and then share them with your partner. This requires that both parties stand together against the misunderstanding, instead of taking sides against each other. This strategy isn’t about who’s right or wrong, logical or crazy, it’s about understanding your emotions and sharing them with your partner. It’s a lot about being vulnerable, and it’s terrifying, but I believe the results are infinitely better than what’s considered normal in our world today. I don’t see any reason why two people who care about each other should have to experience conflict and leave the situation feeling misunderstood, bitter, or worst of all, crazy.

A good friend of mine recently had a successful experience using a strategy that involved self reflection, honesty, and (gasp) open communication. Here’s the abbreviated version of how it went down: she recently started dating a very cool man, and their instant chemistry resulted in quick emotional and physical connections. Having just come out of a long term relationship, he was a little taken aback by how quickly things were progressing so he asked her if they could slow it down, you know, keep things more casual (and take physical intimacy off the table). Note: this took a fair amount of self awareness and courage on his part. You can probably guess that her reaction wasn’t an enthusiastic agreement. She freaked out. She did the healthy thing and didn’t freak out on him, but called me instead (always a good move, call your girlfriends!).

SO what’s going on here? We talked through everything that happened and identified some emotional triggers that were underlying this whole encounter. Many times in the past, she’d been told by guys that they wanted to keep it casual, only to find out that they actually wanted to play the field, date other women, and eventually take off with someone else. Those words alone were enough to trigger memories and emotional memory of past experiences. Unfortunately, if all you know is one single outcome for a given action, you’re likely to expect that pattern to repeat. And in this case, that’s exactly what my friend expected. She could have easily done the classically “crazy girl” thing – spent hours lamenting, dissecting every text, every comment he’d made on their previous dates, searching for clues to explain his behavior. She could have stopped talking to him, yelled at him, cried, and made him feel guilty for making her feel upset.

Want to know what she did instead? She talked to him about her emotional triggers, and explained that her immediate emotional reaction to his request (anxiety, terror, confusion) was almost entirely due to the fact that his words were activating past patterns – her body was literally responding to a perceived threat. She acknowledged that she hadn’t truly been able to understand what he was asking for or why he was asking, because she was too busy dealing with her overactive nervous system.

He responded by sharing something awesome with her. He was also emotionally triggered by how fast their relationship was progressing – because his last relationship had gotten off to a whirlwind approach and he had since committed to taking a more level headed approach. In fact, he really wanted to take time to get to know her and he had felt pretty bad that his request upset her. He didn’t know why or how to address it, so the fact that she came to him and explained opened the door to an incredibly productive conversation.

Want know how it all ended? They’re still talking and getting to know each other, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. What’s more, they’ve established a mature, healthy, mutually respectful way to approach intense emotional interactions. Nobody’s being called crazy, or a caveman.

I’ve summarized this here, but I don’t want to imply that it was easy. Both of these people have high emotional intelligence and are open minded individuals who recognize that their emotional reactions only represent part of the story – an incomplete part. I guess my point in sharing this is to illustrate that there’s an alternative to the typical “crazy girl” and “emotionally distant guy”. Furthermore, I truly believe that everyone has the potential to achieve this level of healthy communication and mutual respect, but the first step is recognizing that it’s an option (contrary to what society would have you believe).

What’s your point?

So many things: for starters, let’s …

  • stop calling each other crazy
  • take time to appreciate the challenges faced by those on the other side of the equation (in this case, men)
  • take time to know ourselves and our emotional triggers
  • find (and practice) healthier ways to communicate

“Being crazy isn’t enough” – Dr. Seuss

“I am like a falling star who has finally found her place next to another in a lovely constellation, where we will sparkle in the heavens forever.” – Amy Tan

Today my heart is filled with joy and love. It was a sunshine-filled day, and the extrovert in me that has laid dormant all Winter finally came out to play. In the early afternoon I celebrated Holi with new friends, and in the evening I visited an observatory with even more new friends – to gaze at Mars, Jupiter, and the Moon. Beautiful beyond words.

While driving home, and listening to an amazing session from the Art of Love, I saw a falling star. Even though my car was warm, my whole body tingled with goosebumps. It was such a magical moment.

I am too blissed out to write coherently right now.

copper & rose quartz

In addition to the acrylic flower pendant I introduced last time, I brought this little copper and rose quartz beauty home from Maui with me. When Erin first shared a few of her pieces with us, I immediately gravitated toward this piece and knew it belonged with me. I’ve worn it so many times recently […]